Industrys Green Challenge

The meat industry needs to tackle the environmental challenge facing it, delegates to the World Meat Congress in South Africa were told.

Growing world consumption, particularly in the developing world, was only going to increase demand for meat, but increasing production without change would have a serious environmental effect.

"We have a problem already," said Richard Brown, director with GIRA, "and that's only going to get worse as we eat more meat. This is a serious challenge for the meat industry."

According to speakers the answers lie in intensification, improved efficiency and alter-native meats, such as kangaroo.

Dr Pierre Gerber, one of the author's of Livestock's Long Shadow, the UN Food and Agriculture's report into agriculture and climate change, told delegates the meat industry had to face up to the serious challenge faced by global warming. His report highlighted the fact that livestock's contribution to the world's environmental problems was "on a massive scale and its potential contribution to their solution is equally large". Livestock was responsible for 7.1bn tonnes of CO2 emissions, he said.

However, Gerber said that simply stopping meat production was not the solution. He said that the report had often been misunderstood and, in some cases, misused. Focusing on just the one issue was an "over-simplification", and to only consider livestock's environmental impact, without taking into account its social and nutritional advantages, would lead to people reaching the wrong conclusion.

"A total of 1.3bn people depend on livestock for their food and livelihood and livestock can be the most efficient way of providing nutrition to people around the world. If you over-simplify the situation you reach the wrong conclusion."

He said a key solution was sustainable intensification of meat production - more efficient use of land and animals.

However, Bent Claudi Lassen, chairman of the Danish Bacon & Meat Council, said: "The FAO is calling for intensification, but affluent consumers are asking for the exact opposite. How can industry deal with those conflicts?"

Dr Gerber said there needed to be clear communication with consumers on what sustainable intensification meant.

Climatologist Peter Johnston told the congress the clearing of rain forests for agricultural production along with the billions of tonnes of CO2 being produced by animals was having a serious impact. "It's the only earth we have and if we disturb the balance, we have to be prepared to pay the price."

He said meat producers had to reduce emissions and be more efficient. He suggested one solution would be to try out alternative meats, such as kangaroo and ostrich.

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